28th August 2018

Let's Talk: Ideas, Decisions & 
The Creative Process

Sophie Driffield

Sophie Driffield Designer


The National Festival of Making returned to Lancashire for a second time this year, after its success in 2017, promising a variety of art exhibits and installations, workshops and talks hosted across the county.

‘Let’s talk: Ideas, Decisions & The Creative Process’, was a talk held as part of this festival with Dave Kirkwood featuring as the guest speaker. 

As creative people we make hundreds of design decisions every day, but very rarely do we take time to entertain conversations about creative thinking, idea generation or any process associated with creative practice. I went along to Dave Kirkwood's talk, representing the A&P creative team with curious interest to just do that.

Immediately we were invited to engage creatively with the whole group, with a simple exercise that involved a blank piece of paper, and the small beginnings of the sketch of a dog. This was then passed left to your neighbour, with 15 seconds to make additions to the drawing without conferring. After we received our original pieces back, we started the process again with little more of a ‘brief’, ending with some interesting results.

This led to the opening of the evening’s discussions. We talked about this process and how as creatives this made us feel. Interestingly there was a whole host of responses and approaches which went on to guide the conversations throughout the evening. 

Here are the main takeaways: 

  1. When it comes to any project we should have a practical, functional, emotional and social response because this approach is integral to break through ideas.
    Any brief received requires a tailored approach, yet too often we are quick to hone the scope of a project, deciding on a design solution without fully exploring all the design routes. Ideas are our currency. They are transitional and ultimately what people come to you for. Different projects require different thinking. Asking questions on the design journey that challenge your response will naturally get a different outcome. It even allows flexible thinking and fuels new streams of creative solutions, bringing energy to a project. When we find the balance of instinctively making creative decisions that challenge both you as a designer and your brief, then you can identify the correct response to the project - whether practical, functional, emotional or social - we arrive at the creative sweet spot that leads to break though ideas. This process helps formulate the direction to get to your solution. In the case of the initial exercise, we were required to make a quick creative decision on how we wanted to make our mark within the time given. Our responses were all fairly linear and perhaps even obvious, and we neither implemented a process nor responded nor considered the outcome. Some participants even began to repeat what they were doing or push the boundaries of what little brief they had, adding to the space around the image rather the image itself. This approach made each creative person feel something different, however it wasn’t until we identified that there was little method in our responses that we fully understood how our approach may affect the outcome.

  2. Being stuck isnt an option.
    Creativity is communication. In an opinion-based industry it is essential to formulate a structure and process that works as a catalyst for generating ideas and free thinking, to generate forms momentum towards the best solution. 

    Repetition forms rhythm which leads to process. Pick up whatever medium you need to, get out your sketch book or layout pad and test your ideas, letting them intuitively drive your creative. This method allows you to make mistakes that computers don’t allow, perhaps leading you to the golden nugget you’ve been mining for. 

    Learn when to stop and review the direction of your thinking, inviting someone to discuss them with you. There often is an odd tension around competition and community however the opportunity to collaborate is often where the best ideas are born. Be intentional in surrounding yourself in a community of like-minded creatives that help you thrive too. 

    Arguably we also need to learn when to give our brain a rest, step back from a project, or even give it the overnight test. Sometimes you can be too close to the approach and separating yourself from the process can often give your mind a break from the many messages you are trying to convey and therefore create clarity.

    As we repeated the initial tasks throughout the evening, we began to form an awareness for what we were doing and the requirements. We discovered that time moved quickly and there was no option of being stuck. We had to progress the image and this actually aided us in finding innovative solutions because we began to form our own processes to achieve a solution.
  3. Confidence is often normalised when we see compromise
    Know who you are as a creative and what you believe in. Not only will it attract the people you want to work with and the kind of jobs you want to work on, but it will also give you the confidence to not compromise on the things that have a negative effect on the creative process. In changing our behaviours, we create a confidence in what we produce. That said people are incredibly important in the process of a project. Be confident to challenge clients in who they are, what they are about. In doing so this builds relationships that develop the understanding of each other. 

    Once we had discovered an approach and response that worked for us, we were able to think freely and create with confidence knowing we could do something that not only furthered the sketch but reflected us as creatives. We were also sure of our decisions and therefore worked quicker too.

It was a great session and provided great inspiration to take back to A&P HQ reminding me not only of the power and beauty of the industry we work in but also the importance of building and developing relationships with our teams, our clients and our communities.